Do you feel like you’re always on the go, even if you’re at home, and don’t have time to relax or enjoy your family? That means you don’t have a balanced family schedule, but you need one.
As our kids get older and more reach school age, the more I realize that we need a family schedule to keep things flowing smoothly. My husband has to pick up the slack that I cannot meet due to other requirements, and things have to be shifted to balance our new phase in life.
If you’re struggling to find the balance, I put together a list of tips that have worked for us so far, and remember that a schedule changes and should never be rigid. You have to tweak it as your family changes, but having a routine makes life a whole lot easier.
What is a Balanced Family Schedule?
When I talk about having a balanced family, I’m often asked what that means and looks like for a family, and it’s a loaded answer.
Here is what I consider a balanced family schedule.
1. Tasks are Distributed
Tasks need to be distributed throughout the family in a reasonable manner, and that looks different for all families.
In a family with two parents who work outside the home, the home tasks might be divided more equally than a family with a stay-at-home parent. However, I caution any family with one member working outside of the family NOT to overload the one at home with all the house tasks.
That’s not fair.
When you have older kids, it also means placing chores on the kids that help the family. These chores might be things like sweeping the kitchen floor, loading and unloading the dishwasher, mopping the living room, or taking out the trash.
I suggest keeping a list of chores visible to go with your family schedule so everyone knows what is expected from them to make life run smoothly.
2. Work and Family is Balanced
The reality is that families need an income, and most families have at least one spouse who works outside the home. Time away from the family is to be expected.
However, that means you need to put effort into providing enough family time with your spouse and kids. Your family needs quality time together.
3. Being Able to Relax
I have friends that never seem to relax, and I don’t understand how they survive. You need time to relax, and keeping your schedule balanced is key to this. It means that nothing you do takes up all your time.
How to Keep a Balanced Family Schedule
1. Create Priorities as a Family
All families have priorities or goals that they focus on throughout the years, and you have to figure out what priorities you have.
Priorities are things that are important to our family and make keeping our family schedule a little easier. For example, if you attend church every Sunday as a family, that is a priority that matters to your family and needs built into your schedule.
Your goal might be to build a house in five years, so your spouse works a lot of overtime. That might mean your family schedule falls more heavily on you to pick up regular tasks, but if that’s a priority for your family, you build it into the balance. It makes it easier to understand what you can and cannot commit to weekly or daily.
2. Know What You Want
What are a few things that you want for your family when you work on having a family schedule?
One of the things that I want is to keep my kids on their sleep schedules; this is an important goal. So, I need to make sure we are home and everything is in place to make that happen. You might want to have dinner as a family at the table five nights a week – find a way to make that happen, even if dinner time changes each day.
Think about your goals and what you would like to see in your family. Then, think about how to make that happen and keep a balanced family schedule.
3. Have a Family Calendar Visible for All
As your kids get older, having a family calendar visible for all to see helps everyone stay on track. Before long, you have multiple kids with different commitments each week, general tasks, work, and more.
If you try to get it in your head, the ball ends up being dropped somewhere, and it’s always something that is important.
Even worse, everyone in your family asks you what is happening on certain days, and it drives you insane.
So, grab a huge wall calendar; I like the dry erase wall calendars. Write down what everyone has to do, and check it on a regular basis. I like to also put down when bills are due and important tasks that I cannot forget.
4. Limit Commitments for Kids
Getting kids out and about is important; we want our kids involved in sports, gymnastics, dance, art, or whatever interests them. Watching your children find their passions in life is one of the biggest joys as a parent.
That doesn’t mean your children need to be involved in every single commitment available.
In general, your kids should have one or two commitments at a time. If you have more than two or three kids, I suggest limiting it to one per kid because most classes or practices are after school and things end up overlapping too much. You have to be available to pick each of your kids up.
I have one exception for this – when more than one child wants to do something together.
For example, if my son and daughter have separate sports but they both want to take an art class together, that is more reasonable to me. Remember, your kids need more time at home than they need to be involved with extracurricular activities.
5. Plan Ahead
Doing as much planning ahead as possible is a surefire way to keep a balanced family schedule. Planning is truly the key to having a relaxed home life; you know you’re ready for whatever comes your way, but planning looks different for everyone.
Every Sunday, I like to take a look at my personal planner and make sure I know what is coming up. If any of my kids have doctor’s appointments, I might need to arrange a babysitter for my youngest (Covid life nowadays means that it’s one kid per visit at our office). If my husband has an after-work commitment, I want to know ahead of time so that I’m not surprised when the time comes.
I write down in my personal calendar things I need to do ahead of time. If we go to the lake, I know I need to pick up supplies the day beforehand. It’s a good idea to also know ahead of time if your kids need to bring certain things to school on different days; your kids won’t remind you.
Trust me on that one!
6. Meal Plan and Meal Prep
One of the best ways to prepare ahead of time is to meal plan and meal prep. Sundays often involve this as well for our family.
When sports season starts, I need a lot of on-the-go dinner ideas; buying take-out every night is way too expensive. I have to prep things for my kids’ lunches and my husband’s lunch, and I also look ahead at dinners I want to make throughout the week.
Making slow cooker dinners ahead of time is so easy; dump everything into a plastic freezer bag, freeze it and then dump them into the slow cooker when the day arrives. Many meals may be made ahead of time, frozen, and cooked later.
The more you meal prep, the better it is throughout the week.
7. Find Ways to Multitask
I love finding ways to multitask is one way to make sure everything gets done, even if it means that you have time to read a book.
I use sports practices to pay bills on my phone; it’s a productive task that needs to be done, and I easily complete it when elsewhere. If you have reading practice or homework that your kids need to complete, try to do that when the other kids are at their commitment or lessons.
The most important thing about multitasking is to have one task that doesn’t need your full attention at that time. I won’t multitask when my kids’ have games; I want to watch those. Practices are different; I don’t have to watch the entire hour-long practice.
8. Make Sure You Schedule in Down Time
Down time is a necessity; make sure you aren’t scheduling your days right up until bedtime. You need time to sit outside and watch your kids play and time to work on hobbies that matter to you.
Some people are workaholics; it’s quite easy to work yourself to death, especially when you love what you do. It feels like you aren’t working until you discover that you haven’t had time to yourself in two weeks.
Then, you have a breakdown.
It’s a smart idea to put on your schedule specific times that are when you won’t work, schedule important tasks, or anything else. Call it whatever you want, but I think cherishing down time is one of the best ways to keep a balanced family schedule. Kids need time to relax and chill like adults!
9. Save Time for Your Marriage
Without a doubt, you have to keep time in your family schedule for your marriage. Going out on dates with your spouse is a must-do task; we try to go on dates as often as possible.
I understand that finding a babysitter is hard for some families, but you can date your spouse at home as well. It requires creativity, but I love evenings when my husband and I watch a movie in bed or play board games until late in the evening.
Try to put at least one date night a month on your schedule, and if you know ahead of time, try to find a babysitter to stay with your kids for that date. If that doesn’t happen, plan something fun at home to enjoy.
10. Follow a Schedule for a Week and Tweak as Needed
Before the kids go back to school, I make a schedule of things that I know we want to do throughout the year, and I write my daily stay-at-home schedule around our family schedule.
Once I create a schedule, I follow it for a week and decide if I like it. I take notes and decide what works and what needs to be tweaked to fit our family the best. Then, I stick to it.
Yes, you have to be committed to sticking to whatever schedule you create, but the results are worth it. Your family will feel free and relaxed, and you’ll never feel like you are running on an empty gas tank.
Keep It All Balanced
One of the keys to keeping a balanced family schedule is to not add so much to your days that completing everything is impossible. No one likes tasks to be hanging over their head, so keep your routine and schedule in check to remove stress from your life!